A young writer not receiving opportunities to share their writing with an audience is similar to an actor who rehearsed a play that they never get to perform – Alan Wright
Seems strange to have to point this out, but – children find it difficult to consider their audience’s needs when no real audience exists for a class writing project. Too often children are asked to write on the back of unnatural stimuli, contrived topics, and fake writing situations. Situations where there will be no ‘real’ audience to receive their writing at the project’s end. Then teachers ask us why children’s writing lacks voice and quality. Children with SEND can have even greater difficulty connecting with these sorts of writing tasks (Young & Ferguson 2023a).
It’s important that a class has time to discuss any new writing project with their teacher. This should include establishing a clear publishing goal for the project, giving children an opportunity to consider the purpose for their writing and who they are going to be giving their writing to at the project’s end (Young & Ferguson 2021; The Writing For Pleasure Centre 2023). To help with this, Writing For Pleasure schools share with children the six most common reasons we are moved to write:
(Figures from Young & Ferguson 2020)
Of course, these aren’t static. They can be used in conjunction with one another. Indeed, by combining different writing purposes together, we can enhance our texts. For example, teaching people in a way that is entertaining can enhance our audience’s reading experience. In addition, teachers would do well to focus on developing children’s abilities to: infer, understand others’ perspectives and utilise their ‘theory of mind’. For example, some questions teachers can ask their pupils at the beginning of a new class writing project are:
- Who are we making this writing for?
- What do we know about our readers?
- What do we think our readers will want?
- What do we think our readers will like?
- What will our readers be looking for?
- What should we do and include to ensure our readers appreciate, understand and enjoy our texts?
As part of our Class Writing Projects resources, we provide teachers and children with our Publishing & Performing Menu. The idea behind this resource is to help teachers and children decide together what the publishing goal for a class writing project will be. At the end of the project, the children will publish and deliver their writing to their chosen audience.
Publishing & Performing Menu
Let’s choose how we’d like to publish or perform our finished writing!
- Read it out during class sharing times (in your own or in another class).
- Have a live debate or political discussion evening centred around the writing.
- Read it out during assembly.
- Have a slam poetry evening.
- Have a lunchtime or after school ‘coffee house’ read-aloud club.
- Have a publishing party or a writers’ picnic.
- Hold special writing celebration evenings or exhibitions where the community can be invited in to read, hear or see live/videoed performances.
- Put it in a frame or give it as a gift.
- Put it on your bedroom wall.
- Put it in the bathroom for people to read on the loo or while they’re in the bath.
- Leave it in the car to read during traffic jams.
- Turn it into a presentation.
- Turn it into a film.
- Turn it into a piece of artwork.
- Add it to the class or school library.
- Send it to another school either here or abroad.
- Send it in the post to a friend or a family member.
- Take it home to share with the family.
- Mail it to a person who needs to read it.
- Send it to an expert, charity or association to see what they think.
- Collect it together with other pieces to make an anthology.
- Share with another class via their class library.
- Enter it into a year group, school, local or national writing competition.
- Send it to a local or national newspaper, magazine or fanzine.
- Publish it online.
- Publish it in the school newsletter or newspaper.
- Have a ‘lecture day’ where people can sign up to hear different speakers discuss what they’ve learnt during class topics.
- Put on a book or poetry sale. You can sell your writing – especially if people know it’s going to a good cause. It can feel good knowing your thoughts, passions and ideas are worth money.
- Make an audio recording for the class library or school website.
- Suggest that it be used as an ‘exemplar-text’, when the writing is kept by your teacher to help teach next year’s class.
- Ask if you can place it anonymously in local establishments such as: libraries, places of worship, local history centres, museums, art galleries, train stations, bus stops, bookshops, cornershop windows, lamp posts, gates, fences, takeaways, retirement homes, cafes, coffee-houses, pubs, sports-clubs, dentists’ or doctors’ surgeries, on buses or trains.
Filling in the GAP
Over the years, I’ve noticed how I typically ‘sell’ a new class writing project to my class. I fill in the GAP. I do this implicitly. However, there is no reason why a teacher couldn’t make this explicit by filling out a table with their class, like the one below. GAP stands for Genre, Audience & Purpose.
It’s so important on the first day of any new writing project that you introduce the genre the class will be studying and creating for themselves. You also need to decide on the audience that is going to receive the writing once it’s made, and the purpose you’re looking for the writing to serve. For example:
The key thing to remember is: wherever you see writing out in the world, that’s where your children’s writing can go. Think of people who regularly get written to – your class can send them their writing too.
Writer-teacher Tobias Hayden has taken the concept of the Publishing Menu one step further. Instead of an audience chosen by the whole class, children are invited to fill out a ‘publishing slip’ where they draw who they plan to give their writing to at a project’s end. These slips are then put on display for the rest of the project – as a constant reminder of who they are making their writing for and why.
Beyond setting publishing goals, it’s imperative that teachers put aside time during a writing session for children to share what they have been crafting that day. It’s an opportunity for them to ‘check in’ with readers to see if they are reacting to and comprehending their text as the authors would like them to. There are a number of ways in which this can be done. One popular way is to conduct an Author’s Chair session (Young & Ferguson 2020).